Building a Runway to Accommodate a Commercial Airliner Difficult; Not Impossible

Updated: 03/18/2014 12:11 AM
Created: 03/17/2014 10:22 PM
By: Tim Sherno

There are two possible scenarios for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370; it crashed but the wreckage hasn't been located, or the plane, with 239 people on board landed.

Excluding existing commercial airports, would it be possible to build a runway that could sustain the landing weight of a 777?

Allen Dye is a Project Manager with the Metropolitan Airports Commission who oversaw the construction of runway 17/35. He says the runways at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport are built to precise standards that are monitored during construction and tested to insure quality.

Dye says runways are more than just poured concrete, "The concrete that we have on all of our runways is 20 inches thick, and there's a foot of gravel, what a gravel road would be, Class-5, and then there's three feet of sand under that."

Dye points out that the volume of concrete needed presents a challenge even in a populated urban area, "When we did the north end of the new runway we had two batch plants and they ran trucks and trucks, they were were basically taking out 1,000 cubic yards an hour."

Dye believes the manpower and volume of material needed to construct a useable runway to take on such a project would be nearly insurmountable, "It would be very difficult, I think, to go out and grab some concrete, throw it down and have it be a runway."

That said, construction of a runway that doesn't have to meet the high standards of heavily used international airports like Minneapolis-St.Paul International isn't impossible according to Dye, "I don't know, if you had the plans, you could probably take a crack at it."

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